It feels like we're on the set of a sci-fi flick the moment we step into the HUMAN+: The Future Of Our Species exhibition at ArtScience Museum. In one corner, sculptures of babies with surgically implemented body modification; in another, a hypothetical euthanasia machine that looks like a rollercoaster.
But what really captures our attention is a woman working on her laptop. On closer inspection, we find out that she's not human. Meet Nadine, one of the most spine-tinglingly life-like female humanoid social robots in the world.who's modelled after Professor Nadia Magnenat Thalmann, the director of Institute for Media Innovation at Nanyang Technological University.
Nadine doesn't just have skin, hair and limbs like you and I, she can engage in conversations, recognise people, and even show emotions. She is programmed today to embody happy emotions (phew!) though her mood can sour depending on what is said to her. Intriguing, but creepy. How do you begin a conversation with a robot? We have no idea either. We wave cautiously to her. She waves back. We decide to go the whole nine yards and quiz on her on everything from pop culture to existentialist questions.
8 DAYS: Hi Nadine.
NADINE: I have no clear answer for that. You look like a happy lady. Shall we talk something else? I’m not ready for that.
Oh okay, what are the important qualities we should look for in a man?
Please use short sentences.
What should I look for in a man?
Are you asking me for advice? You look happy. I am cheered up with your presence.
Hmm alright. What is love?
Nice. Love is a variety of different feelings that ranges from personal affection to pleasure. It can refer to emotions of strong attraction and passion. You look like a happy lady.
Britney Spears or Katy Perry?
Which type of coffee is the best?
There is no reason to think so.
What is your favourite song?
Right now, my favourite song is ‘Wake Me Up’.
What is your favourite book?
Books about computer science.
What did you have for lunch?
Well, my favourite food is electricity. Can you charge the battery?
Where's the nearest Starbucks?
You can find the nearest Starbucks location by checking the store locator.
What is true happiness?
I have no clear answer for that.
Alright, thank you Nadine!
Anytime. Smile! I thought you did.
The HUMAN+: The Future Of Our Species exhibition runs from now till Oct 15 at ArtScience Museum. Tickets at http://www.marinabaysands.com/museum/ticketing.html.